Raphael (Raffaello Santi or Sanzio) was born in Urbino in 1483, the son of a painter attached to the court of the Montefeltro dukes. From a very early age he showed remarkable artistic talent, attracting the attention of members of the court - not least Elisabetta Gonzaga, the Duchess of Urbino, who became his first patron.
Around 1500, he began studying with Perugino, a renowned painter from the city of Perugia. Raphael's earliest works, mostly altarpieces painted for churches in Perugia and nearby Città di Castello, bear a strong stylistic resemblance to those of Perugino, with delicately posed figures and elegant, sparely painted landscapes.
In 1504 Raphael left Urbino for Florence. There he received few commissions for large altarpieces; instead, he turned to portraiture and domestic devotional paintings of the Virgin and Child. Many of his most beautiful paintings of the Virgin and Child date from his years in Florence. Away from the influence of his teacher Perugino, his style began to change: the delicate fragility that characterised his early work gave way to a greater grandeur and gravity.